Tyres for vintage cars

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Veteran and vintage-car enthusiasts are fully aware that without a modern source of obsolete-size tyres, the entire old-car movement would cease. Tribute is paid to Dunlop for supplying such needs, on page 1187. Not only does Fort Dunlop manufacture practically all the required size of tyres for cars from pre-1900 to 1940, in beaded-edge and other types, as we described in a special article in Motor Sport in November 1967, but recently Vintage Tyre Supplies, who distribute these precious wares, opened larger, conveniently-situated new premises, just off London’s North Circular Road, for their regular and reliable supply.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu is chairman of Vintage Tyre Supplies Limited and he is not a person to adopt half-measures. It is a fact that what he undertakes he does thoroughly and well. So it was no surprise to find the new premises already fully stocked with Dunlop tyres, and looking for all the world like a high-class tyre depot of the nineteen-twenties, when we inspected it last month, following an extremely good lunch in the near-by “Spotted Dog” in Willesden High Road.

Some eight years ago the production of these special tyres was in jeopardy because Dunlop justifiably felt that the additional burden of distributing them in very small quantities to places all over the country might be too much to bear, on top of the non-profit-making manufacture of the tyres themselves. This crisis Lord Montagu averted by proposing a separate distribution company, which his Lordship set up In conjunction with Philip Pollock, who owned an existing Dunlop agency. This eased the selling side for Dunlop and facilitated their production planning of tyres and tubes for the older ears. This covers, incidentally, 27 different types and sizes.

The new premises of Vintage Tyre Supplies Ltd. are at Neasden, NW 10, at the bottom of Jackman Mews, which was formerly the Jackman Forge, later an Express Dairy depot. When VTS took over there was no proper postal address so Lord Montagu persuaded them to call it Jackman Mews, after the founder of the original business. At the compact premises stocks of tyres are kept in racks, the extent carried I being valued at more than £6,000. Tyres are frequently exported to many parts of the world, notably France, Germany, America, etc., even to Czechoslovakia, while in the rare case of a particular size being unavailable, Australian, American and Finnish-made tyres can be supplied.

Dunlop are currently making approximately 5,000 of these tyres a year, each one involving 16 processes to seven for modern size covers. They are hand made, largely by one or two skilled operatives, in moulds costing some £15,000 each. To assess future old-car requirements VTS Ltd. send out questionnaires to the appropriate Clubs, the excellent response of 23% replies being obtained at the last such census; amusingly, these vintage data are fed to a modern computer. Dunlop make these special sizes as a gesture to the historic car movement and will make moulds for “new” sizes if a demand for 280 to 300 such tyres can be determined. Prices are only high when the specialised nature of the product is disregarded—in fact, they have only risen by about £3 a tyre compared to prices prevailing over 30 years ago. Although of the correct type and tread pattern, the construction used is superior, containing as it does a nylon content. Apart from prestige, Dunlop get little return for this essential service to the vintage movement, although sometimes the owner of a Dunlop-shod veteran will turn out to be a user of fleets of modern business vehicles, for which he gratefully specifies only Dunlop tyres.

A nice gesture at Vintage Tyre Supplies is ownership of a smart blue 1930s Morris Commercial van, which will take supplies of tyres to appropriate meetings, starting with the Brighton Run. Ironically, it is shod with 6.00 x 20 tyres, one of the few obsolete sizes Dunlop cannot at present supply, the mould for them being out of commission. Fortunately, plenty of rubber remains on the Dunlops at present on this VTS van! –– W.B.

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